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J Neurosci. 2012 Jun 27;32(26):8817-30. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1103-12.2012.

The N-terminal, polybasic region of PrP(C) dictates the efficiency of prion propagation by binding to PrP(Sc).

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.


Prion propagation involves a templating reaction in which the infectious form of the prion protein (PrP(Sc)) binds to the cellular form (PrP(C)), generating additional molecules of PrP(Sc). While several regions of the PrP(C) molecule have been suggested to play a role in PrP(Sc) formation based on in vitro studies, the contribution of these regions in vivo is unclear. Here, we report that mice expressing PrP deleted for a short, polybasic region at the N terminus (residues 23-31) display a dramatically reduced susceptibility to prion infection and accumulate greatly reduced levels of PrP(Sc). These results, in combination with biochemical data, demonstrate that residues 23-31 represent a critical site on PrP(C) that binds to PrP(Sc) and is essential for efficient prion propagation. It may be possible to specifically target this region for treatment of prion diseases as well as other neurodegenerative disorders due to β-sheet-rich oligomers that bind to PrP(C).

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